BLOODKIN IS kind of a big deal. The legendary Athens band came up in the same scene as Vic Chesnutt and Widespread Panic in the same city that birthed R.E.M. and Pylon. They were embraced by the same people who love those artists, yet they’ve always been the stylistic outlier in many ways.
When you talk to Daniel Hutchens, you quickly realize that the reason they’ve become so ingrained in that scene is because Athens isn’t about genre - it’s about community.
Ahead of the band’s show at El-Rocko, which they’ll play alongside local faves the Eric Culberson Band, we spoke to Hutchens about their career and what it’s like being a part of Athens music history.
How long has this band been going now?
Hutchens: 32 years now. But this was initially Eric Carter and I. It was very loose - we're mainly a songwriting team. That's what we spend a lot of our time on. We put out our first record in '94, but there were many years where we weren't really recording or releasing things. So it's kind of been a lot of underground activity [laughs].
I’ve known Eric since I was about 8 years old. We’ve been playing music long before it was even called Bloodkin.
What brought you guys together musically? Were you bonding over certain bands, even as kids?
Yeah. We were definitely always into the classic old rock and roll stuff. The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, people like that.
In particular, The Rolling Stones was the band that we got obsessed with in high school. They’re just the band that shifted our perspective, and still are. We wound up playing with Bobby Keys at the end of his life a little bit.
You guys aren’t from Athens originally, but you’ve really become part of the history of the city even though you were kind of the stylistic outsider. What led you there and what made you want to plant yourselves there?
We grew up in West Virginia, and grew up in Huntington. It was a college town, and the same vibe as a lot of college towns. But there was a real ceiling there as far as opportunities. If you wanted to get a regular gig, you had to be in a cover band. That just wasn’t what we were interested in.
So our plan was, we just started traveling. We were going to recognized music towns. We planned to go from one to another, but we went to Athens first and just never left
In terms of the songwriting things, it was the flip side of the coin from Huntington. In Athens at the time, cover bands were looked down on. These were the early days of Vic Chesnutt, and R.E.M. was around. It was a melting pot of great writers, and the bar was very high. It was exactly what we were looking for.
Everybody in that scene was so musically different, but it did seem like you all played with and supported each other. Did you feel that?
There was total camaraderie, and we were all kids together. Vic, the Widespread Panic guys, us, everybody in town. At the time, there were really two places to play. It was a much smaller community in those days, and we all knew each other. Straying into other music towns later, I figured out that Athens was always the kind of place that if your amp blew up, there were 10 people who would loan you an amp. We all cheered each other on.
It felt very much like home for me. Where Eric and I came from, we would’ve been considered weirdos [laughs]. People gravitated to places like Athens.
After so many years and so many records, what’s changed about the way you guys work as a band? And what keeps you going after all these years?
The reason that we’ve stuck around so long is because there’s really no point in breaking up [laughs]. In other words, when you really look at the history of Bloodkin, we've had a number of lineups. For other bands, that would've meant breaking up or forming another band. But Eric and I have an unspoken musical communication. We've done it for so long, and we remain great friends.